Planning Your L’Etape Training

Assumption: You have at least 4 months to train for this event. I have 6 months, so you can condense it down into 4. If you’re not a regular and fairly experienced rider and you only have 2 months to train, it’s going to be one rough ride cowboy…Good luck!

First Critical Steps

Some people think that if the route is 180km long, they just need to be able to ride 180km. That’s not the case. 180km on the flat is very different to 180km through the mountains.

Step 1 – Know the Route

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How long is it?
  • How much ascending is there?
  • How much descending is there?
  • What will the road conditions be like: gravel, paved, tarmac, etc?
  • What kind of weather are you likely to experience: snow, sun, rain, a combination?
  • Are there fuel stations along the route?

All of these factors will influence how you train for the event. For L’Etape you can be sure of a few things, such as hard climbs, fast descents, a long route, probably hot at lower altitudes and potential changeable weather as it’s in the mountains.

To Do: Check out the route plan and know all the details. Write it all down and start to build a list of questions, concerns or training points that you need to address.

Step 2 – Know your Strengths and Weaknesses

Knowing these will help you to address them ahead of time. Some people are terrible at descending mountains. If that’s you, you’ll save a lot of time for no energy by practicing and learning how to descend well.

Maybe you are very heavy, meaning that going up a mountain is incredibly hard no matter how much power you have. Losing some KGs will make a huge difference to your time and enjoyment on the course.

Example: I’m quite lean, so I don’t have a lot of fat to lose but I do have a reasonable amount of muscle on my upper body. It’s not helpful at all for climbing mountains on a bike so I need to try and lose some of it. My aim is to drop 3-4kg of mainly muscle from my upper body so help my power to weight ratio (critical for hill climbing). More on power to weight rations in a minute.

To Do: What are your strengths and weaknesses. Write them down and try to understand what you can do about them.

Step 3 – Time Pressures

How much time do you have to train for this event? Both in terms of months and time per week? Be realistic here. If you create a plan that is way too much training it won’t help you at all as you will not be able to stick to it.

The bare basics of training for L’Etape, in my opinion, are:

3-4 long rides per month – You need to do consistent long rides building up from 50-60km all the way to the full race distance. You’ll also need to use this session to increase the amount of vertical metres you climb. By event day, you should be comfortable completing the distance and amount of climbing involved.

1 cardio, speed & strength session per week – You should be doing at least 1 other session a week for speed and strength work on the bike. Maybe a 45 min spin class or some kind of interval training. Raising your heart rate to improve your cardio system and improving your leg strength.

This is an absolute minimum. In terms of time that would be up to 7 hours per week in total.

If you want to complete it properly I would recommend adding the following in to your training routine:

1 strength and conditioning session per week – Using resistance to build strength in your legs, abs and lower back will pay dividends later on. It’ll help you maintain form and improve your cycling a lot. It’s often missed out by a lot of people. Some squats, lunges, planks, etc don’t take much time at all.

Specific Interval Training – If you know that you’re going to be tackling some big hills, the chances are your heart rate and power output is going to be spiking high. To train for that you can mimic those conditions on an indoor bike (preferably a Watt bike or one with a power meter).

The idea being that you spike your heart rate and power for, say, 5 minutes and then try to recover for 5 minutes while still continuing with your usual pace. There are loads of different ways to train it, but a session dedicated to this will really push you to the next level.

Regular tests – I’d recommend doing a set of tests (details in the ***tests section) every 6 weeks to see how you are progressing. They’ll give you something to aim for and tell you if you’re going in the right direction.

I include workout plans for cycling and gym work in this guide, so head back to the main ***landing page to get them.

To Do: Be completely honest and decide how much time you have to dedicate to your training each week. From there you can work out the kind of sessions to include.

Step 4 – Limits & Expectations

Knowing where you’re starting from is important, so perform the ***tests to get a baseline. This may help you to set some realistic goals, such as a target time or a power output to work towards.

If you set yourself a really big target, which is unrealistic, this will hurt you psychologically. You’ll potentially see yourself as under achieving when in reality the goal was just too big to start with.

To Do: Sit down and think about what is realistic for you to achieve based on how much time you have to train and where you are starting from.


Go back to the main page. From there you can decide what to do next, such as perform the FTP test before you start training.